Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rizzo Got Censured? So What?

Geoff Rizzo
The Daily Breeze printed a short article about a campaign finance mistake from one of the Torrance City Councilmembers:
Councilman Geoff Rizzo has become the latest member of the Torrance City Council to be given a regulatory slap on the wrist by the state’s political ethics agency in the wake of last year’s municipal election.

So far, two Torrance councilmembers have been the subject of campaign controversy, yet the article gives the impression that there is a cult of pay-for-play in Torrance.

The Fair Political Practices Commission issued the first-term councilman a warning letter for failing to aggregate a total of $850 in campaign contributions from one-time council candidate Ray Uchima and three businesses he owned.

A warning letter. Fine, because there was no fine. Another mention of Ray Uchima, a Torrance commissioner who had mulled a run for Torrance City Council, dropped out, donated heavily to Pat Furey's mayoral campaign, with allegations that he was trying to buy an appointment on the city council. Nothing happened.

Rizzo described the issue as a “paperwork error.” He said he initially filled out the necessary documentation accurately, then incorrectly amended it.

Exactly. The reams of campaign finance laws almost force people to break the law. US Senator Dianne Feinstein once paid a $190,000 fine from the same watchdog group. Former US Senator and Presidential candidate John Edwards faced massive fines and years in prison for alleged illegal campaign contributions. Despite the salacious aspects of the case, the laws are so hazy and vague to begin with, that even the most astute and honest of candidates tend to make mistakes.

“The FPPC paperwork can be very confusing to read and fill out,” Rizzo said.
Uchima, who pulled out of the council race and became a key fundraiser for Mayor Pat Furey’s campaign, sought appointment to the council in the wake of the election but did not receive the nod.
47 Comments Another FPCC investigation into independent expenditures made on behalf of Furey’s campaign is ongoing.

All of this news is old papers, and the Daily Breeze had to rehash something from months ago.

The real story worth telling, is the point that Rizzo made:

The FPPC paperwork can be very confusing to read and fill out.

That kind of honest of appraisal is needed in our times. Why is it so difficult for political newcomers to campaign? The federal and state regulations make it so difficult, almost discouraging people from seeking local office. Even reformers struggle with campaign finance rules. The Wall Street Journal reported on the MayDay Super PAC, which wants to bring in more rules on campaign financing, and yet the repeatedly violated the rules already on the book:

“Federal laws and regulations now total about 376,000 words,” CCP chairman Brad Smith has noted. “On top of that we can add 1,900 federal advisory opinions, thousands of pages of state laws and thousands of federal pages trying to explain the 376,000 words that are actually in the regulation.”

I just received an e-blast from the left-leaning Super PAC. The group wants to get money out of politics, yet solicited a donation from me to help with the campaign to get money out of campaigning!

As the reporter declared in the first sentence of the above cited Wall Street Journal article: "Embrace the irony."

I affirm that Councilmember Rizzo has been open and transparent with me about his interests in the city, and his votes on key, controversial issues before the city council. I am saddened that the local paper reports such small matters, attempt to foment controversy where there is none. The newspaper ought to discuss relaxing regulations and making it easier for "The Little Guy" to run for higher office.


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